Columnist Jay Fleitman: Paying tribute to John Andrulis

  • John Andrulis, of Leeds, died July 11.

Published: 8/6/2018 9:25:04 PM

Over the years of my career as a doctor, I have accumulated ghosts.

By far more than most people, a physician comes to know the death of his people. This is quite understandable as many who we professionally encounter have severe diseases and may be elderly.

Though most people will only admit this surreptitiously, I do in fact look at the obituaries almost every day. Sometimes this is the only way I discover that a current or prior patient has died.

Often I learn from the obituaries a great amount of detail that I did not know about the lives of the patients who have passed. Even though I may have seen some of these patients for many years and over that time they have given to me nuggets of their lives beyond the nuts and bolts of the necessary medical information, the paragraphs written by family members that are submitted as obituaries offer a far fuller picture.

Most of the time the announcement of the death of one of my patients is not a surprise, because they are often older and sicker. Sometimes that announcement is shocking: that person may have died suddenly and unexpectedly or perhaps though the person may have had severe disease, he or she was not quite that old.

Just like anyone else, when somebody I know from my life outside of my medical practice dies, it is also always a shock. Such was the case when this newspaper carried the announcement of the sudden passing of John Andrulis of Leeds.

I suspect that not many people in this community knew John. He was a quiet and reserved man, and somewhat shy in manner. He was physically broad though not imposing, with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair and a full beard. If John had ever put on a wool, knit cap, he could be mistaken for the captain of a New England fishing ship.

I knew John for over 20 years through our shared politics. We didn’t always agree politically, as he was on the socially conservative end of the spectrum while my politics orbits the libertarian pole. We often crossed paths by attending the same events, and we had a long-term mutual reliance in political organizing.

I first met John decades ago when I started getting involved in local politics. He was already the chairman of the Northampton Republican City Committee, and would hold that post for many years. No one else wanted it. It was a thankless position.

Republicans in this community are a small minority and for the most part are politically marginalized and so are not politically active. John took it on himself over all these years to try to make something happen.

He would work relentlessly to try to get the city committee organized and for the most part met with little success. He tried throughout these years to get his fellow political travelers in Northampton involved with the advancement of local and state candidates and issues.

John would periodically show up at my front door unannounced, with some petition or candidate that needed signatures. I often felt that he was wandering in the political wilderness.

John took some shots at running for political office himself, at least once running for a state Senate seat. These were really nonstarters. John was naturally somewhat socially awkward in an effort that requires an ease at backslapping and handshaking.

John was well aware that his chances were slim to none as he was running as a Republican in a community that is overwhelmingly unreceptive to his politics.

John was highly intelligent, with a background in engineering and a university-level career in teaching economics. He fully recognized that most of his political activity would be unrewarded.

He nonetheless continued his efforts because of his deep dedication to his conservative principles. He believed in those ideals of a small government, as outlined in the Constitution, that serves to protect and defend individual freedoms and liberties. He believed in a free capitalist economy that supports self-determination. He felt that advancing those values was worth whatever effort he could sustain.

He ran for office knowing well that he would lose, because he felt that voters in a democracy should have a choice and that his political beliefs were worth defending in public.

Though he was a very private person, it was always clear how much he loved his wife, Caroline, and suffered over her during a chronic illness. He was heartbroken with her recent passing, and he unsuccessfully tried not to show it.

The obituary of John Andrulis did not capture how I knew him. If John’s organizing efforts over all these years had been for a cause such as peace activism or the defense of the environment, he would have likely had an article or editorial in this newspaper dedicated to him. I do not point this out with any sense of bitterness or resentment; this is just the way things are.

So this is for John, an acknowledgment of his commitment.

Jay Fleitman, M.D., of Northampton writes a monthly column. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.


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